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Good day everybody, and isn't it a BE-UUU-TIFUL day?!

It started with a dark, cold and cloudy morning with a bright RED sunrise! And I thought, oh-boy, there could be a storm coming (ref. "Red shy in morning..."). But then the skies cleared and a big, BLUE sky came out, and I knew things were going to be alright. Kinda like a MIRACLE! Even the nearby forests have reopened, making me just wanna grab my boots, pack and RAKE and go out into the forest! I just wanna look up into that sky and INJECT all that sunshine into me! And maybe it's just the holiday season, but people are smiling and saying "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" again! 😂

Seriously, it looks like they reopened both my Plan-A and Plan-B trails to Vazquez Rocks, so I'll be exercising to get back into shape for that. This after I got back into shape for paddling, which made me think of the 3rd Essential Step (1- Planning, 2-Preparing, 3-Proficientcy, 4-Back-Ups, 5-Basic Survival). There are two facets to Proficiency; Required skills and physical fitness.


Being physically fit for backpacking (or "survival", for that matter) does NOT mean looking like a body builder or being an Olympic athlete with a lot of upper body strength! In fact, in order of importance, it's more important to have good lower body (LEGS!), core (including lower back), and cardio (endurance).

However, as I've said before, although "backpacking" IMPLIES hiking and camping, backpacking is not LIMITED to hiking and camping. So, you may very well have some climbing, rafting, etc. This means you have to ADD the required proficiency in skills and physical fitness for those activities TO your backpacking requirements. But, let's confine this discussion to backpacking requirements.


First, ALL exercise is good and benefits all activities to one degree or another... BUT... one of the rules I've always stated to friends and students (I used to teach martial arts) is "The best exercise for an activity is the ACTIVITY itself." Therefore, the better exercises for backpacking are those exercises that best emulate backpacking.

For this, there is "Rucking" or "Ruck Sacking". You get a very sturdy [canvas] pack, fill it with weight (typically sand bags), then pick a hill and GIDDYUP! Jimmy Chin (renownd climber) often goes to a nearby mountain, fills a pack with rocks, and climbs. This has the advantage of not having to lug a heavy pack through town.

This is particularly effective if your route includes long, steep, inclines (think the climb up Half Dome). In fact, climbing stairs with a weighted pack would not be a bad work out! While the weight in the pack prepares your weight-bearing bones, joints and tissues, getting used to supporting and balancing that load is equally important. But don't overload your pack, because you need to have LONG workouts! (to build your cardio).

Jogging/running doesn't really help backpacking strength (though it does improve your "wind") anymore than day hiking because you are not carrying any significant weight. Running/jogging also relies more on your calf muscles, whereas backpacking relies more on your thighs and hip-core muscles.

CORE (and hips)

The reason your core is next most important is while ALL that weight is (or should be) resting on your hips, it's your CORE that stabilizes your pack, and you, for that matter. You see how this makes sense when you have to move over - around - through tree fall, rocks and boulders, uneven and/or unstable trails, overgrown and unmaintained ground cover, etc.

You may have a great sense of balance... WITHOUT a full pack... but add a full pack and that changes things significantly! It's your CORE'S strength that helps maintain your balance when rock-hopping or log-walking across a river, or negotiating a single-track trail across the face of a sheer-drop cliff. Either of which could end badly for you if you don't have the core strength to maintain your balance.


Face it, if you stop moving, it's probably because you're "tired." How? Tired from swinging those trekking poles? Hardly. Tired in the legs? Unlikely. Tired because you're out of energy? From not being able to breathe? Overheating? Guess what, you need CARDIO!

Specifically, you need a "marathon" mentality when approaching your workout regimen. That should make sense to you; If you're hiking for hours on end, you need to EXCERCISE for hours on end, to prepare!

In my younger days, I started getting into running (not "jogging", GAK!). There was a point where I stopped counting miles, and started counting HOURS! THAT is the approach you need to get into shpe for backpacking.

Upper body? Sure, if you like, when you're done with the rest. In the meantime, concentrate your time and effort where it matters most.


And BTW... HAPPY HOLIDAYS! BWAAA-HAAA-HAA-HA-Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha...

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